A STAFFORD prisoner left in a coma for three months after falling and suffering a major blow to the head died accidentally, an inquest heard.
Henry Drennan Stewart, 73, was being escorted from his cell in Stafford Prison in July last year when he suddenly went rigid and fell backwards.
The inquest in Stafford was told last week Mr Stewart, who had suffered a number of medical complaints, died in the University Hospital of North Staffordshire on October 1 last year.
The cause of death was given as bronchial pneumonia with severe traumatic brain injury as a contributing factor.
A jury returned a verdict of accidental death. It followed a range of evidence from witnesses, including prison officers and Mr Stewart’s own cell mate.
On the day Mr Stewart collapsed prison officer Darren Wood said the inmate was being escorted from his cell for a hospital appointment and was walking unaided.
“Suddenly, he went rigid like a plank of wood, with his arms straight down the side of his body as if he was standing to attention,” he said.
“Then he fell straight backwards onto the floor like a plank of wood. As he fell backwards the back of his head hit the floor with a tremendous noise, like a cricket bat hitting something. The whole thing went in slow motion. I remember him making a groaning noise constantly. He didn’t hit anything as he fell as there was nothing behind him.”
Mr Stewart’s cell mate Anthony Lomax, 77, said in a statement they had shared the cell for 18 months and Mr Stewart slept on the bottom bunk.
He said he had never seen any victimisation or bullying of Mr Stewart, who was not the type to keep things to himself. His health had begun to decline and he often complained of aches and pains, particularly in his back, said Mr Lomax.
He added: “On the day of his collapse he got ready and waited for the escort to arrive to take him for his hospital appointment. The staff arrived and he left the cell. There was no warning for what followed.”
The inquest was told Mr Stewart suffered a mini stroke in June, a month before his collapse.
Prison nurse Linda Mooney said she was working on June 23 when she was called to Mr Stewart’s cell and saw him on the floor, having a fit or seizure. She put pillows around him and used the hug hold to stop him hurting himself. Paramedics took him to hospital and he was later brought back.
He had had a gall bladder operation some years previously which caused ongoing health issues and in 2003 he had fallen and fractured his skull while in Belgium.